Asian low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific has announced plans to develop a new regional hub at Iloilo, a province of the Philippines located in the Western Visayas region. The budget carrier already serves the city of Iloilo from Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Manila but from the start of November 2012 will introduce domestic flights to General Santos and Puerto Princesa as well as direct international connections to Hong Kong and Singapore.
“We are proud to launch Iloilo as our 5th hub, since these new routes will greatly contribute to the tourism and trade in Western Visayas,” said Candice Iyog, VP for Marketing and Distribution, Cebu Pacific. “Direct international flights also mean easy access for foreign tourists and overseas Filipino workers, since there will be no more need to pass through Manila or Cebu.”
Iloilo occupies the southeast portion of Panay Island and is bordered by Antique Province to the west and Capiz Province and the Jintotolo Channel to the north. Its international airport was opened in June 2007 replacing the former Mandurriao Airport as the region’s main air service gateway. Cebu Pacific is by far the largest operator at the facility with a 44.3 per cent share of the seat capacity this month. Airphil Express, Philippine Airlines and Zest Airways also serve Iloilo and South East Asian Airlines will also add flights to the capital Manila from the start of next month.
The growth at Iloilo is possible thanks to the arrival of additional Airbus A320s during the second half of this year. Cebu Pacific will receive three aircraft and according to Candice Iyog these will enable the carrier to “continue to stimulate travel to, from and within the Philippines”.
The new air services from Iloilo will commence on November 8, 2012 when a twice weekly link to Hong Kong, the first scheduled international flight from the city, will commence. On the same day the carrier will inaugurate a four times weekly operation to General Santos, while an additional daily rotation will be added on the Iloilo – Manila route, increasing it to seven times daily. From November 9, 2012, Singapore Changi will join the carrier’s network from Iloilo on a three times weekly basis as well as Puerto Princesa which will also be served on a three times weekly schedule. On the same day Cebu Pacific will also launch a three times weekly service between Cagayan de Oro and Bacolod.
According to OAG Aviation’s Schedules iNet, only General Santos is presently served from Iloilo, a route launched by Airphil Express in March this year. Puerto Princesa was previously linked to Iloilo by Philippine Airlines using a 114-seat Boeing 737 but the route was suspended in May 2002. It is estimated that in 2011 approximately 23,000 O&D passengers flew between Iloilo and Hong Kong last year; 14,000 to/from Singapore and 16,000 on the domestic route to Puerto Princesa. There was only a limited demand recorded on the Iloilo - General Santos route in 2011 but this had reached 6,000 O&D passengers across the first five months of 2012 after Airphil Express entered the market: Cebu Pacific will look to simulate the market further with its low-fares.
Now in its 16th year of operations, Cebu Pacific has a fleet of 38 aircraft comprising ten A319s, 20 A320s and eight ATR 72-500s. Between 2012 and 2021 it will take delivery of 22 more A320 and 30 A321neo aircraft, while it is expected to begin long-haul services in the third quarter of 2013 with the first of its leased A330 widebodies.
Earlier this month Cebu Pacific entered into a partnership with Routesonline, the online platform of Routes, to utilise its Route Exchange product to support its short-haul network expansion across Asia and its growth into medium and long-haul markets. The airline has launched a Request for Proposals (RFP) to gather data and proposals on the Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Chinese markets for its short-haul equipment and the Middle East and Oceania for its A330-300s.